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What is an engineered wetland and where can you see one in Kansas City?

By Lisa Treese

The wetland is used to understand best practices for stormwater management, improving quality of our urban waters, and reducing flooding. This green infrastructure is over 10 acres and provides the community a safe, healthy environment to recreate at and be enjoyed by all.

When you visit the park at 81st and Troost you’ll notice a large body of water that looks like a pond, but is actually an engineered wetland. Wetlands are specially designed to hold stormwater for long periods of time and plants are chosen to clean the water. In addition to managing stormwater, they create important habitats for native plants and wildlife (City of Kansas City).

Engineered wetlands are one type of green infrastructure facility built by KC Water to help manage stormwater by catching rain, therefore reducing the amount of water in our pipes. Wetlands improve water quality and reduce flooding and pollution in streams and rivers like the Blue River. Wetlands can be extremely effective in removing pollutants. The native plants around the wetland basin remove the nutrients and dissolved pollutants through their root systems.

But why remove nutrients? Nitrogen and phosphorus appear naturally, but an increase in human activities can cause an increase in these nutrients. A healthy amount of nutrients provides food and habitat for wildlife, but excess amounts pollute air and water, like the Blue River. When there is too much, algae grows too fast, creating algal blooms, and decrease the amount of oxygen aquatic wildlife need to survive. Native plants can help keep the water from becoming polluted.

The Nature & Play Site located at 81st and Troost began with a need to find space for a large green infrastructure facility. The facility's purpose would be to direct water into a separate sewer system to reduce combined sewer overflows and downstream flooding in the Middle Blue River watershed.

Residents, business owners and community leaders came together and sought to create beautiful, usable, open spaces for children to play and families to gather. In addition, the community could use these spaces as leverage in building new economic opportunities.

A major development was a green infrastructure facility, built by the Kansas City Water Services Department (KC Water). Completed in 2017, the green infrastructure at 81st and Troost prevents stormwater run-off from making its way to the sewer system and features a stormwater detention wetland. Grant funding from The Conservation Fund’s Parks with Purpose program led the collaboration between Heartland Conservation Alliance, The Marlborough Community Coalition, the City of Kansas City, Missouri, and other local stakeholders to bring natural resource enhancements to the neighborhood.

HCA and The Marlborough Community Coalition hosted a series of Green Guard Stewardship Training Workshops for 11 Marlborough residents. Through hands-on and classroom learning and volunteering, the participants gained valuable skills and knowledge about how to be effective Stewards of the park at 81st and Troost. This year graduates from the class will lead a new group of participants around the park and share their knowledge about the wetland and native plants, and how they help protect and restore the Blue River.


Lisa Treese is the Senior Landscape Architect at the Kansas City, Missouri Water Services Department

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